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Snæfellsnes: Measuring what matters for destination stewardship success

Guiding Principle 7: Redefine economic success. Rather than raw contribution to growth in GDP, favor metrics that specify destination benefits such as small business development, distribution of incomes, and enhancement of sustainable local supply chains.

Magical Snæfellsnes, Iceland’s narrow western peninsula is a prime destination for tourism. It is well connected, sitting just two hours north of the capital Reykjavik, and contains a diverse amount of the country’s unique features in such a small area including black sand beaches, icy cold waterfalls, lava fields, and the iconic glacier-capped volcano Snæfellsjökull.

Green Destinations recognized Snæfellsnes as one of its top destinations and the region is now applying to become a UNESCO Biosphere destination. The region was chosen as a backdrop for the popular TV series ‘Game of Thrones’ as well as being the focus of Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ novel, so popularity has rocketed.

Just 4000 people live in Snæfellsnes yet an estimated 700-900 thousand people visit each year. Main livelihoods have moved from fishing and agriculture to tourism. Yet the region is conscious of tourism’s detrimental impact if it is not managed carefully. Visitor numbers are important to Snæfellsnes but so too is environmental protection and social responsibility.

The region is certified by EarthCheck, the world’s leading scientific and environmental benchmarking, certification, and advisory group for the travel and tourism industry, under GSTC criteria, and was the first European destination to do this. It has now obtained platinum certification, which means it has spent 10 continuous years measuring and managing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, energy, waste and water consumption, and social impact.

None of this would have been possible without the involvement of local communities. This collaborative approach to destination management has created a more coordinated approach, widened and increased knowledge of resource control laws and regulations, and promoted compliance. Since certification, the amount of plastic waste sent to landfill has reduced by almost 50%, GHG emissions have decreased by the equivalent of removing 1295 cars off the road, even with increased visitors, and the development of environmental and social initiatives has increased as has public education.

For more information, check out the article from the Destination Stewardship Report "Doing It Better: Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland" and EarthCheck's case study on Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

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